San Diego

21 Century Solutions Grant Winner: The NAMI App for Navigating through a Mental Health Crisis

With one in every four people affected in some way by mental illness either personally or through a family member in the U.S., it would be easy to assume there is vast, shared knowledge about mental illness.

But that is not the case.

Stigma and fear of judgment, even discrimination prompts many suffering from mental health problems along with their families to stay quiet while they desperately scramble for information and resources, not always knowing where to turn.

NAMI San Diego (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is out to change that.

The non-profit organization which offers support, mental health education and advocacy to clients and their families has created a smart phone app designed to get help fast to those who need it.

“Fifty percent of all cases of mental illness start at the age of 14 but the actual time frame between the onset of symptoms and getting help for those symptoms is 8-10 years,” said NAMI CEO Shannon Jaccard. “The point of the app is to provide information, resources, what to do next and where to go.”

In fact, the app has a section where users can push a digital button to display information about what to know and do before, during and after a mental health crisis in San Diego county.

It includes everything from psychiatric walk-in center addresses and hours to education about various types of mental illness, from emergency housing assistance to spa music to sooth the mind.

NAMI Communication Specialist Julie Benn said having a clear guide for clients and families to navigate through a crisis is invaluable.

“It sets people up for success on their journey and points them in the right direction for recovery," Benn said.

The Oscer (Organized Support Companion in an Emergency) app is free. Nami also runs a telephone help line at 1-800-523-5933.

If you would like to support NAMI’s innovative efforts, the non-profit hosts an April 5k Walk/Run. You can register here

NAMI is one of three San Diego non-profits awarded a $25k grant by NBC 7 and the NBC Universal Foundation which recognizes organizations implementing new and innovative ways to move the community forward.

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